Much Edu About Nothing

An NYU Steinhardt blog about all things vaguely educational.

Italian university switches to English

BBC - 

"The waters of globalisation are rising around higher education - and the university believes that if it remains Italian-speaking it risks isolation and will be unable to compete as an international institution"

Call me a crotchety old preservationist, but this all seems a little sad. And also inevitable.

I can’t complain too much, though. Attending the university that most champions international competition - and probably drives most of it with its insatiable satellisation of the world - I’ve totally bought into the whole globalisation of higher Ed. thing.


China: the world's cleverest country?


"One a recent trip to a poor province in China, he says he saw that schools were often the most impressive buildings. He says in the West, it is more likely to be a shopping centre".

These findings kind of fly in the face of the whole idea of decentralising education. Although having said that, I wonder how many Uighurs or Tibetans were included in the survey. Pisa doesn’t analyse, obviously, equality and justice in social studies curricula.

Anyway making human rights jibes at China is like shooting fish in a barrel. These are still fascinating findings. When I was teaching in Mexico a few years ago, Pisa data was everything. There was a mad rush to make Mexican schools at Finnish as possible. I wonder if a Chinese makeover will be on the cards next.

Don’t know when PISA 2012 results are to made available, but I’m looking forward to the Helsinki vs. Shanghai battle royale.

The 13 Most Useless Majors, From Philosophy to Journalism

The Daily Beast - 

No comment is really necessary. I’m glad International Education isn’t on the list, but that’s possibly because most people don’t recognise it as a distinct area.

This list could pretty much be recycled as the ‘13 Majors You’d Most Like to Have, but Could Never Justify Paying For’. We’ve all considered archaeology at one time or another.

The Costa Rica Consensus

Foreign Policy in Focus - 

Nobel laureate and former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias has found a way to equip billions of children with laptops, and to train their teachers in how to use these. All without raising taxes anywhere in the world.

It’s pretty simple really; stop spending so much money on weapons.

Of course it’s idealistic, and of course the de-militarisation of a small country like Costa Rica is a lot more feasible than that of a power. None the less, his challenge rings clear and true; don’t we have a better use for all this money than more guns?

Kony 2012: Invisible Children prepares Cover the Night stunt amid criticism

The Guardian - 

It’s been a while since I posted anything, let alone anything about KONY2012, let alone something with very little to do with education (besides the fact that everything is about education eventually).

I’m curious to see just how effective the Cover the Night campaign will be. New York, for example, seems like the kind of place that would love an all-night semi-dissenting frenzy of street arting. If it was called a flashmob it would be even cooler. On the other hand New York also contains a lot of people who would probably love to sneer at the whole idea, because the only thing hipper than giving a damn is giving a bigger damn by doing nothing.

Anyway, this article highlights to me the gap between two different models of justice. KONY2012 wants vengeance. They want militarisation. They’re making KONY famous in order to break him down. This article suggests that a lot of Ugandans, and especially victims of the LRA, want restorative justice. Amnesty, reparations, truth telling. Reconciliation not retribution.

Whichever model of justice you prefer, it seems clear to me that a model of justice that ignores the voices and requests of the victims is probably not on the right track.

The Social Sciences’ ‘Physics Envy’

New York Times - 

"The test of a road map lies not in arbitrarily checking points but in whether people find it useful to get anywhere."

Now almost two semesters deep in a social sciences program, having taken a couple of mandatory research methodology courses, having learnt that there is only one way to write a paper and that everything you say needs to be backed by empirical evidence (and therefore that you can never really say very much about anything), I found this article kind of a relief.

There is, of course, a valid place for all this positivism. The work of Esther Duflo and her MIT crowd, not to mention Will Easterly and his NYU Development Research Institute (“There is no answer to global poverty; there are only answer finding systems”), is certainly not futile. They are testing the testable and drawing powerful conclusions.

What about the untestable, though? That which is too abstract? Or that which no Institutional Review Board is going to let you touch? This whole physics envy thing leaves vast areas uncharted and unchartable by the social sciences. 

It’s precisely these unchartable places that probably need the most attention. Hello Burmese solitary confinement cells. Hello North Korean gulags. Hello Guantanamo Bay.

Saudi princess: What I'd change about my country

BBC - 

"The way women are treated in Saudi Arabia is a direct result of the education our children, boys and girls, receive at school".

Princess Basma speaks up about the need for reforms in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she thinks there are bigger issues than whether or not women should be allowed to drive. Like whether it will be safe for them to do so. Giving women the right to drive doesn’t guarantee them protection from people who have been taught to believe that there is something offensive about this. Change will come through the classroom and the textbooks. But who’s going to orchestrate that change? Education reacts slowly; there needs to be an even earlier pervasive change before there will be any shift in curriculum.

Forty years in solitary confinement and counting

BBC - 

It was pretty heart-breaking to hear at IPK’s Into the Current film screening last week that some Burmese political prisoners had spent 16 years in solitary confinement. I couldn’t imagine how such a large portion of a life could be squandered in such a fashion. And then how to pick up the remaining threads of the life afterwards.

Then this article revealed that some guys in the US had spent 40 years in solitary.

When we point to enlightened, rational democracy, where do we point?

{the link is in the heading]

On Thursday night the Institute for Public Knowledge (fast becoming my favourite NYU facility) hosted a screening of Into The Current: Burma’s Political Prisoners. The film is a harrowing account of life inside and outside of Burmese prisons, and creates a harrowing account of what people will go through to reclaim their country from tyranny.

Bo Kyi, one of the main figures in the film, was on hand to spell out the current Burmese situation (which, despite making few headlines, is changing constantly). He answered questions from the floor, pressing home the importance of education, both of a new generation of Burmese kids, and of the wider world.

NYC School Word Ban: NYC public schools want to exclude controversial words from standardized tests

Slate - 

The joys of political correctness.

Presumably this means children should henceforth be prohibited from birthday parties, museums and delis. Probably best to burn your Jurassic Park DVD. We might have to cancel Christmas too.